I never thought I could write a novel, let alone two – Maggsie McNaughton’s Second Chance, comes out on June 27 2019. I only got published because of competitions. Before that, I thought authors were semi-mythical beings and publication was by invitation only, like the Freemasons.
My work never seemed good enough to send to an agent, but competitions were doable. What had I got to lose? I entered the Good Housekeeping magazine first novel competition. A shortlistee, part of the prize was valuable advice from an editor. I took it and finished my book , all 130,000 words of it.
I entered more competitions – Mslexia magazine and the Lucy Cavendish fiction prize. Was shortlisted for both (always the bridesmaid …) but won far more: the fabulously insightful Juliet Mushens became my agent, and the wonderful Lucy Cavendish college welcomed me into their family.
My shortlisted, polished book was sold at auction to Mantle/Pan Macmillan where my lovely editor Sam Humphreys helped me sculpt it into The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr, published 2016.
Since women are more likely than men to underestimate their work writing competitions go some way to redress the balance. They’re fair, offer a target to aim for and many have sponsored entries. For me they were the only way.